First day at school - prepare for change

PUBLISHED: 01:50 06 September 2018

First Day of School - it all starts now. Picture: getty Images/iStockphoto

First Day of School - it all starts now. Picture: getty Images/iStockphoto

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The child you have nurtured starts school... here’s what happens next

A healthy school lunch... will soon be challenged. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/MilkosA healthy school lunch... will soon be challenged. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Milkos

We want to see our babies grow up, become independent, gain an education... look after their mums and dads in their old age... But there’s a cost.

For nearly five years they are ours to mould. Their cultural references come from their family. By and large, they like what we like. We all know The Gruffalo, The Lego Movie, Dinosaurs, CBeebies on Sky 614, Cadbury’s chocolate fingers. But when they start school, things don’t stay cosy and familiar for long. While they will learn to read, write, problem solve, do sums, learn times tables and move inexorably towards becoming more clever than their parents, they will also become schoolchildren and here are 10 signs to watch for.

1. They make friends with children you don’t know.

At nursery, you knew all their friends and their friends’ parents. Now, they come out of school with dozens of other kids, dart across the playground and tell you that their new best friend is Noah. “And which one is Noah?” you ask, when obviously, what you really want to know is what are his parents like and will you approve? When it turns out that Noah comes from a respectable family, you decide it might be nice for Noah to come to tea.

Off to school with daddy. Getty Images/iStockphotoOff to school with daddy. Getty Images/iStockphoto

2. At some point in their first year at school, they will provide an alternative to the generally accepted facts of life.

This is because, Fay, who sits at the same table in class as your daughter, told your small girl that a nine-year-old girl, who lives just up the street, had a baby and this was because she kissed a boy while simultaneously holding hands with him. Patiently, you relate the original (and correct) version of the human reproduction process only to watch your child’s face twist in disbelief. Fay’s account was obviously more entertaining and, because it came from a contemporary, more believable.

3. The lunch box.

Day one and unsure how appealing school lunches will be, the loving parent prepares a packed lunch feast of all their favourite things. Raw mushroom, strips of red pepper, carrot batons, cherry tomatoes, a piece of emmenthal cheese (with holes), a banana and an oaty fruit snack. By day three your child is demanding the same as the other children. This turns out to be (allegedly) a packet of crisps/popcorn, a sandwich and a Penguin biscuit. Only the banana remains. You explain that the lunch you provide is healthy and good for them. They explain that one of the children laughed at their raw vegetables. You read out a newspaper article about childhood obesity to your uninterested offspring. After this it’s school lunches.

Head Lice itch as parents may well discover for themselves. Picture: Getty Images/iStcokphotoHead Lice itch as parents may well discover for themselves. Picture: Getty Images/iStcokphoto

4. The day they happily come home in someone else’s clothes.

You may never get to the bottom of this one because the most likely explanation is that, after PE, one member of their class put on someone else’s socks and shirt and so the next child, took someone else’s socks and shirt, and so on. The whole class is probably wearing each other’s clothes.

5. Asking if they can go to bed.

They will find their first year at school extremely tiring. They will come home hungry, eat, run around the garden for 10 minutes, have a bath, get in their pyjamas and nod off on the sofa. You have spent more than four years hoping this might happen and, when it does, you realise you miss them.

September 2017 and Prince George arrives for his first day at school with his daddy, the Duke of Cambridge. Picture: Richard Pohle/The Times/PASeptember 2017 and Prince George arrives for his first day at school with his daddy, the Duke of Cambridge. Picture: Richard Pohle/The Times/PA

6. They begin to know things you didn’t tell them.

Until now, their parents and grandparents have been the founts of all knowledge. Now there is a teacher and older children who know things too. Even when you show an interest in their newly-acquired maths skills, you may find they don’t want you to help... because you don’t do it the right way.

7. Their vocabulary changes.

Suddenly, they will use swear words and inappropriate terms that didn’t come from you (unlike the first batch of swear words).

8. They take a more critical view of their parents

As in: “Noah’s mummy is really pretty.”

9. They begin to break free

It may well start with the birthday party which you have lovingly arranged for 10 of his/her little friends. Then your angel will announce he/she needs 29 of his/her classmates to attend... then you find out there are 31 in the class. You will need to be firm and say “10 or no party” and deal with the unstoppable flood of bitter tears that will follow.

10. You may need to take a more relaxed view of certain common problems.

If you haven’t already had this at nursery, you are likely to encounter head lice (try not to freak if you catch them) and thread worms (try not to freak if you get those too). These parasitic creatures are unlovely but not difficult to deal with. You do not need to take the pharmacist into a private room to ask for medication − you are not a social outcast... that usually doesn’t happen until they go up to secondary school.

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